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How Playing Sports Supports Mental Health

Jeremy Seidman writes about the importance of sports and mental health.

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During this challenging year, mental health support is as important as ever. There are many ways to improve mental health, and one of them is through playing sports. Here are some of the ways that playing sports can improve your mental health. 

The Benefits of Exercise

One of the most obvious ways that playing sports can improve your mental health is through exercise. Exercise has numerous benefits for mental health. For example, studies have shown that exercise is as effective as medication at treating depression. Exercise causes numerous positive changes in the brain, including reduced inflammation and increased feelings of calm. Exercise also produces endorphins, which are the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals.

Goal Setting and Accomplishment

Sports also provide a sense of accomplishment and give you something positive to work toward. Whether you’re playing with a team or working toward a goal on your own, focusing on improving your skills is healthy and naturally boosts your mood. They also help to keep you mentally sharp and improves concentration.

Sports Can Improve Your Sleep

Playing sports can also improve the quality of your sleep, which is an essential part of mental health. Those who don’t sleep well are at a greater risk for mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. For optimal physical and mental health, each of us should aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep each night. After several hours of sports during the day, your body is more ready for a good night of rest. 

Working as a Team

Playing team sports also provides significant benefits. They allow you to feel connected to other people and provide valuable support networks. They can also help increase your self-confidence. When you feel as if you’re a valuable member of a team, you’re less likely to feel anxious or depressed. Playing team sports have also been shown to reduce stress and teach valuable life skills. 

Sports Get You Outside

Lastly, many sports are also beneficial because they get us outside. Outdoor sports like skiing, surfing, and fishing, require you to get outdoors and spend time in nature. Spending time outdoors — regardless of the activity — has been shown to boost people’s moods, reduce anxiety, and reduce stress. To enjoy these benefits, research suggests that you need to spend at least 120 minutes outside each week, which is easy to do when you’re committed to an outdoor sport. 

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